Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.
Those who justify abortion mostly seek to evade the problem of taking innocent human life by arguing that what is immoral is not the taking of innocent human life, but taking the life of an innocent human person. The minor premise here is that not all human life is the life of a human person. They cannot deny that the (human) fetus is human, for that would be absurd; nor that it is alive, for that would be more absurd still. Hence, it is human life, even a human life. But they deny that it is a “person.”
We here at Salvo strive to put forward rational arguments for Christianity and for some of the more conservative (for lack of a better word) positions on the bevy of issues facing the culture today. There are many other individuals and groups with the same goal. You can see a list of our partner organizations at the Salvo about page.
Over the past few years, I have highlighted how many Christians (and/or other conservatives) are deemed to have severe mental illness. For those skeptical about man-made climate change, several years ago I wrote about how some professors have indicated that man-made climate change skeptics are guilty of “aberrant sociological behavior,” available here. Then earlier this month, I wrote about a research study in Italy that purportedly “proved” that Christian marriage traditionalists suffer from psychosis and are severely mentally ill, available here. Then piling on, in an interview with Alan Colmes, atheist biologist Richard Dawkins decried that some Republican presidential candidates are “creationists.” Professor Dawkins called such a view “disgraceful” as he proclaimed that nihilistic macro-evolution is a “fact” that you “cannot seriously disbelieve.” Mr. Colmes then asked whether the biologist thinks that religious people are “mentally ill.” Professor Dawkins responded, “It’s hard to use the word ‘mentally ill’ when there are so many of them. If they believed what they did and they were the only one they would undoubtedly be called mentally ill.” So I took that to be a “yes.”
Fortunately for those who are among the enlightened non-mentally ill elites, there is some hope. An updated study entitled “Neuromodulation of Group Prejudice and Religious Belief” by Colin Holbrook and four others was published on October 13, 2015, in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. The lead study author, Professor Holbrook, teaches for the Center for Behavior, Evolution and Culture in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study’s abstract states:
People cleave to ideological convictions with greater intensity in the aftermath of threat. The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) plays a key role in both detecting discrepancies between desired and current conditions and adjusting subsequent behavior to resolve such conflicts. Building on prior literature examining the role of the pMFC in shifts in relatively low-level decision processes, we demonstrate that the pMFC mediates adjustments in adherence to political and religious ideologies. We presented participants with a reminder of death and a critique of their in-group ostensibly written by a member of an out-group, then experimentally decreased both avowed belief in God and out-group derogation by down-regulating pMFC activity via transcranial magnetic stimulation. The results provide the first evidence that group prejudice and religious belief are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, and point to a shared cognitive mechanism underlying concrete and abstract decision processes. We discuss the implications of these findings for further research characterizing the cognitive and affective mechanisms at play.
Emphasis added. The study describes how 38 UCLA undergraduate volunteers were asked questions about a belief in God and other subjects. (The researchers deliberately sought out volunteers who had religious convictions.) One-half of the volunteers were then zapped with magnets aimed at a region of the brain where the researchers believe emotions related to God are located. How was this done? Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, the researchers said that they could “safely shut down certain groups of neurons” in the brain. And so, after being zapped, all of the participants were re-asked the same questions. Those who were zapped “reported an average of 32.8% less conviction in positive religious beliefs” (such as a belief in God, angels, and Heaven) than those who were not zapped. The researchers deemed this to be “statistically significant.”
In the researchers’ questionnaire, they further asked, “Please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you” and “Please jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to your body as you physically die and once you are physically dead.” The study authors observe in supplementary material to the main article that these “threat-inductions” have an “evident link between the prospect of death and palliative thoughts of God and the afterlife, and also because” thinking about one’s death “has been shown to reliably heighten both intergroup prejudice and religiosity in prior studies.” Emphasis added. In my church on Sunday mornings, for example, we recite the Nicene Creed (“I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”). And yet, at coffee time after church, I have not yet seen any discernable increase in “intergroup prejudice” that follows our affirmation. And, of course, it seems to me that people believe in God for many more reasons than to assuage palliative thoughts about death. While I have never asked anyone specifically about that question, at least I believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, for many more reasons than because I worry about my own death.
One can readily think that brain “regions” of complex emotions are far from well understood, but the researchers have published much foolishness. These “scientists” hope that belief in God, or some other politically incorrect question, can be treated, and perhaps even cured, by mind control using magnetic zapping. And therein lies the real danger. Although one can presume that Professors Holbrook and Dawkins are reasonably sincere, but please ask yourself why do so many among society’s “elites” believe that most humans are so horribly stupid that we must be monitored, regulated, coerced, and now zapped, into proper behavior and belief?
In How the West Won, the Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University goes beyond the old “Western Civ” courses, which usually merely described the rise of the West. Stark tells the neglected story of why these monumental contributions to human good grew out of the West, and not out of Asia or the Islamic world. To explore this pan-historic phenomenon—as a set of explicable effects produced by discernible causes—is not ethnocentric, but is rather “the only way to develop an informed understanding of how and why the modern world emerged as it did.”
Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom (His personal views, not Harvard Business School)
A friend shared this video with me today and I think it’s very good. In many ways the observations here are self-evident. When the general populace thinks of human life as a cosmic burp rather than a purposeful creation, inevitably the culture that results will manifest that sentiment. And, once the Judeo-Christian ethic (The Ten Commandments, Do unto others…) loses its influence–since it’s now considered simply mere tradition at best–only survival, power, and pleasure remain as motivators for action. And these things do not provide a foundation for a democratic or civilized society (i.e. nature, law of the jungle). I know that modern man thinks himself enlightened and better than the brutes and that humans can transcend, but just where does The Golden Rule come from? It’s not found in nature. This reminds me of a recent article in Salvo.
Often one can learn something from authors with whom one disagrees. An author with whom I disagree, but from whom I have learned a good deal, is Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900).
Nietzsche was rabidly anti-Christian and anti-Platonic, and thus opposed two of the foundational pillars of Western civilization. Nonetheless, I find that his analysis of the modern West, including its religion, is sometimes perceptive and warrants consideration.
In one of the most contemptuous of old books, Twilight of the Idols (1889), Nietzsche wrote:
[The English] are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. . . . In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing . . . what a moral fanatic one is. . . .
We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. . . . Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole. . . . Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth—it stands and falls with faith in God.
When the English actually believe that they know “intuitively” what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem.
Here Nietzsche mocks the morality of the Victorian thinkers, but we must take care to understand the reason for the mockery. He is not saying that seriousness about morality is a bad thing, and he is not saying that one cannot have a morality without Christian faith. He is saying that one cannot have a Christian morality without Christian faith, and that the English have failed to grasp this. This critique of English morality seems to have application beyond England, and more recently than 1889.
First, Nietzsche perceives that the ingrained moral habits of a culture can outlast the original religious impulse that produced them. The English intelligentsia, he says, have stopped thinking like Christians, but still feel and act like Christians, by a kind of moral inertia. This characterization remained true long after Nietzsche’s death. The agnosticism of many Britons and North Americans from the 1880s through to about 1945 usually went with a morality that was more or less Christian. Secular humanism in that era was secular in theory but often unwittingly Christian in spirit.
Second, and more important, Nietzsche perceives that such a situation cannot last. He says “morality is not yet a problem,” implying that when the English finally reach the level of self-consciousness that the Germans have achieved (or at least that Nietzsche has achieved), morality will be a problem; they will realize the groundlessness of their habits. Nietzsche was prophetic here; for eventually, certainly after 1945, the English-speaking world did begin to abandon, bit by bit, its secularized Christian morality. It had been living on old moral capital, but now that capital was spent and the religious tradition was no longer there to replenish it. Thus, the secular humanism of today, compared with earlier secular humanism, is virtually rudderless, because most people not only no longer think like Christians, but also no longer feel like Christians.
We can reject Nietzsche’s own beliefs as abominable, but his analysis helps us understand our civilization.
Last Friday, writing in The Wall Street Journal, the noted French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, published a powerful jewel of an essay called “At a Monastery in Sight of Islamic State,” available here. In his essay, he describes his visit to the fourth-century Mar Mattai monastery in the Kurdish region of Iraq. ISIS fighters are no more than a few miles away. Until recently, the monastery housed several dozen monks, but today, only four continue to live at Mar Mattai. Mr. Lévy spoke with the monks about the savagery of ISIS. Raban Yousiff, one of the monks said, “Of course we had problems with the Persians, Mongols, Arabs and Ottomans. But never has this region seen such perversity as these men who, while claiming to be fighting in the name of God, are killing him.” The monk went on to tell about the fall of Mosul in June 2014, and about the “Nazarenes” [Christians] who were given but a few hours to choose between conversion to Islam or death by the sword. More than 300 families fled to the monastery. Several months later, fearing that the monastery would be destroyed by the ISIS jihadists, these same families fled again. Asked whether the nation might be cleansed of all Christians, the monk says, “Yes, barring a miracle, yes. What sort of miracle? That your countries come in to reinforce the brave Kurdish fighters who are protecting us, but who will not be able, by themselves, to liberate the plain of Nineveh.” The monk concludes, “Didn’t our Lord Jesus Christ say that we would be persecuted to the end because of His name?”
In recent months, ISIS fighters continue to commit with wanton barbarity demonic atrocities. A starving mother was fed her three-year-old child, ISIS “brides” have burned the breasts of Syrian women with hot coals, and hundreds of women are committing suicide to escape the sex slavery of ISIS. In early August, ISIS fighters also tortured and killed eleven indigenous Christian missionaries, along with a 12-year-old boy, the son of one of the missionaries. The missionaries, all converts from Islam and unnamed to us, had established nine house churches in the area. The twelve victims were captured on August 7 in a village near Aleppo in Syria. ISIS jihadists questioned the captives about whether they had converted from Islam to become Christians, a crime punishable by death under their sharia law. The Christians admitted that they had been Moslems. The jihadis demanded that they reconvert to Islam, but the Christians said that they could never renounce their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of the twelve captives, four were identified as “infidels” and crucified in front of a crowd. They were left on the crosses for two days, and no one was allowed to remove them. But before they were crucified, one of the four, the 12-year-old boy had his fingers cut off as his father was forced to watch. They told the boy’s father that they would stop cutting off his fingers if he would return to Islam. When the father refused, this is when they were crucified. The eight other missionaries were questioned in another village, and were beheaded after they refused to reconvert to Islam. Two of the missionaries were young women. Before the women were beheaded, they were publicly raped and beaten by jihadis. Throughout their abuse, the women prayed continuously. When the eight victims were forced to kneel for their beheadings, all eight prayed aloud. Villagers forced to observe the beheadings said that the missionaries prayed in the name of Jesus; others heard the Lord’s Prayer, and some simply commended their spirits to the Lord Jesus. It was reported that one of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she called out, “Jesus.” Thus, like the first Christian martyr St. Stephen, they prayed loudly and proclaimed the Holy Name of the Lord Jesus Christ with their last breaths. After the eight were beheaded, their headless bodies were also hung on crosses for several days.
Tertullian, the early Christian apologist, famously observed that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Even in this dangerous part of the world, many former Moslems are coming to receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Missiologists tell us that today millions of Moslems are coming to Jesus Christ each year; more are leaving Islam today than in any other period of its 1400 years of history. As ISIS continues to gain control of more areas in Syria and Iraq, more former Moslems are at risk of being killed and brutalized by this terror group for violating the caliphate’s apostasy laws. But even such a threat of persecution is not stopping Muslims from turning to Jesus Christ. Please pray for the victims and their families, and pray that many Moslems can come to Jesus Christ. And please pray for the vicious persecutors that they may, like Saul, meet Christ as Lord and Savior, and become His apostles just as the Apostle Paul was in his generation.